How do you see the role of “station scientist” at your station? How does your role as broadcast meteorologist go beyond the daily forecast?
Its logical in most newsrooms that the meteorologist is the “station scientist.” I embrace it. Who else is going to do it, the investigative reporter? The consumer specialist? Compared to most reporters and anchors that have extensive journalism, broadcasting, writing and literature course work, the meteorologist has often had additional physical science and even life science courses in his or her academic history to qualify them as such. For me specifically, I took several geology courses in college as electives. Thus, it’s very easy for my newsroom to turn to me for some immediate information and impact analysis during earthquakes, mudslides, volcanoes or other natural disasters that may happen in our backyard or around the world. When these events become news, its my job to approach the newsroom with information and graphics that I can add to their coverage. I tend to be proactive about it versus waiting for them to come to me and that’s how my role as the meteorologist goes beyond the daily forecast.
Tell us about “The Colorado Weather Book.” How are you educating youth about Colorado’s weather and environment?
Why is it so important to communicate with youth about weather and weather safety?
Being the father of young children, my perspective on this has changed in the last five years. At some point, you have to realize that a kid is going to be in a situation that requires them to make a decision regarding their own safety when Mom and Dad aren’t around. For example, they could be walking home from school with a developing thunderstorm overhead. With our 14,110 foot thunderstorm generating machine (Pikes Peak) sitting 12 miles west of downtown Colorado Springs as the crow flies, we often do the “blue sky to mature thunderstorm in 20 minutes” thing during summer afternoons. If we can help arm them with some simple tools to understand that a storm is developing and they should get inside, what a gift to give them. When I visit elementary schools, I stress two simple safety things so that I don’t overwhelm them. First, I explain why it’s important to pay attention to the sky around them. Second, I teach them “When thunder roars, go indoors” that the National Weather Service preaches. In my mind, that will keep them safe from most, if not all, thunderstorm threats.
Which Earth Gauge materials have you used? How have you found these resources useful?
I’ve used quite a few of the resources that Earth Gauge makes available. The weekly emails pointing to different information on the website often end up as points of discussion on my work Facebook page or in cross talk with anchors. I’ve occasionally used them on the station website, too. I’ve downloaded the Climate Change PowerPoint presentation that I use parts of when a community group would like me to speak on that. During the recent Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami, the special Earth Gauge email that was sent out pointed me to visuals that I didn’t have time to look for and ended up incorporating into my newscasts that day.
What is one issue that affects your local environment and how have you covered it?
Our biggest environmental issue is how we as humans affect the natural environment. Jutting up against National Forest on the west side of Colorado Springs means several issues result. We have a large number of people heading into these areas for physical activity and recreation on a pretty routine basis. We have some areas, there is a shooting range up on the Rampart Range in particular, where humans have literally destroyed the area with littering and a simple lack of respect for the environment. We’ve covered that extensively over the last two years as it’s currently shut down. In addition, wildfire risk is a significant concern for many residents, as their homes jut up against the wildland interface in the foothills, so we also spend a lot of time talking about fire mitigation projects when we’re out in the community and during broadcasts on an almost yearly basis.
Where is your favorite local spot to spend time in nature and connect with your local environment?
I’m so blessed to live where I do. I can drive to the top of Pikes Peak in 40 minutes from my front door or I can be at the trail head to hike up it in less than 20 minutes. I can ride a bike into the Pike National Forest in about 15 minutes for awesome singletrack mountain biking trails. Within an hour or so I can be on the slopes of some of the best skiing in the world during winter and white water rafting in the spring. Like many fellow Colorado residents, my answer is it really doesn’t matter where as there are so many choices. From our 52 14,000 foot-plus peaks to our National Grasslands on the eastern plains and our beautiful canyons and mesas on the western slope, it’s tough to beat Colorado for being outdoors.